I used to live and breathe NASCAR in my early teens. I loved the endurance required of drivers to slowly fight their way to first place. And when other drivers’ mistakes and wrecks benefited Jeff Gordon, the races were all the sweeter. But they turned sour when his rival Tony Stewart caused trouble. I rejoiced anytime his aggression came back to bite him. One night in particular, I grinned when I heard someone involved with his team had died in a plane crash.
I’ll never forget my parents’ horrified faces. My spirit plummeted in shame—who was I just then? How could I find pleasure in someone’s passing? Maybe it was because death felt distant and impersonal. Perhaps it was a sobering example of tribalism’s dehumanizing effects. I would add “schadenfreude” to the pile as well. It’s an uncomfortable, complicated concept that’s all the rage now with the release of Untitled Goose Game.